Public Sphere By “the public sphere” we mean first of all a realm of our social life in which something approaching public opinion can be formed. Access is guaranteed to all citizens. A portion of the public sphere comes into being in every conversation in which private individuals assemble to form a public body. (Jurgen Habermas, Sara Lennox and Frank Lennox, 1964) The public sphere is an area in our social life where every individual can come together to freely discuss their opinions.
Besides, the constitution of public sphere is every conversation from private individuals assembles to form a public group. The concept of the public sphere, as the historically conditioned social space where information, ideas and debate can circulate in society, and where political opinion can be formed, became a central, organizing motive. This framework cast the public sphere as a sociological concept as well as an inspirational vision of something better yet to be attained. Peter Dahlgren, 1995) Besides, the public sphere is where every single individual shares information and ideas as well as identify societal problems, and through that discussion influence political action. It is a discursive space in which individuals and groups congregate to discuss matters of mutual interest and, where possible, to reach a common judgment. The internet could be an efficient political instrument if it were seen as part of a democracy where free and open discourse within a vital public sphere plays a decisive role.
The model of deliberative democracy, as developed by Jurgen Habermas and Seyla Benhabib, serves this concept of democracy best. (Antje Gimmler, 2001) The internet is one of the public spheres, also known as virtual sphere for the public to discuss their opinions, mutual interest and their political views. Civil society can be defined as the totality of self-organized spheres of activity in the form of associations, organizations, cooperatives, and the like, in which members freely confer equal rights upon one another and through which a public, social and political realm is established.
Citizen initiatives, round-tables, various societies, national and international non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and so on, all belong to the new political sphere to which the term civil society refers. Although the public sphere and civil society do not coincide, they overlap to a significant degree, and given its critical function in the model of deliberative democracy, the intersection of civil society and the public sphere is particularly important. (Antje Gimmler, 2001) The civil society is formed by self-organized spheres, and the members of it freely confer equal rights.
Civil society is a new political sphere which overlaps to a significant degree with public sphere and functions as the model of deliberative democracy. Why public sphere is important? Public sphere is very important in which constituted to democracy. Television, popular newspapers, magazines and photography, the popular media of the modern period, are the public domain, the place where and the means by which the public is created and formed the opinions. The issue of the public sphere is at the heart of any reconceptualization of democracy.
Contemporary social relations seem to be devoid of a basic level of interactive practice which, in the past, was the matrix of democratizing politics. Many of these places remain but no longer serve as organizing centers for political discussion and action. It appears that the media, especially television but also other forms of electronic communication isolate citizens from one another and substitute themselves for older spaces of politics. (Mark Poster, 1995) Newspaper and journals as one of the public sphere provide a lot of information and political debate.
Besides, other institutions such as public assemblies also discuss about socio-political. People can shape their public opinion and talk about their needs and interests while influencing political practice. The public sphere consisted of organs of information and political debate such as newspaper and journals, as well as institutions of political discussion where socio-political discussion took place. For the first time in history, individuals and groups could shape public opinion, giving direct expression to their needs and interests while influencing political practice.
The bourgeois public sphere made it possible to form a realm of public opinion that opposed state power and the economic interests that were coming to shape bourgeois society. (Lewis Edwin Hahn, 2000) From the public sphere, people can know more about the world around them. People can update the world events and the development of society through the public sphere. The public sphere is a mental environment where people engage in interpreting both the reality around them and the processes which occur there. Such interpretations, in turn, have an impact on the course of future events and processes.
Thus, the public sphere serves to update people on world events and on the development of society, whilst the public is able to apply its own attitudes to the shaping of opinions which form the public sphere, as well as to the actual processes and decisions involved. (Maarja Lohmus, 2002) Why Malaysia’s citizens need this public sphere? Malaysia’s citizens need the public sphere to strengthen the democratization process and public deliberation. However, Malaysia government controls all of the media to filter the bad comments toward the government.
Federal constitution and several restrictive laws such as the Internal Security Act (ISA), Sedition Act (SA), Official Secret Act (OSA), and Printing Presses and Publications Act (PPPA) contribute to the limitation of press freedom and engineer the refeudalization process in Malaysia. According to Doris Graber, there are no media that are free from government controls. Many of the regulations regarding the size and reach of media business combinations, protection of national security, protection of the rights of individuals, and cultural safeguards strongly influence what may and may not be published.
Violations are kept in check by the fear of regulatory legislation. In times of war or similar threats to national security, controls have often become quite severe, including laws that prohibit criticism of the government. Finally, most of the information about government that the media present is supplied by government sources, giving government officials control over what to disclose or conceal and allowing them to present information from the government’s perspective. (Mohd Azizuddin Mohd Sani, 2009) Deliberative democracy is understood to be a rational discourse in which a certain political position is debated and clarified.
Through the arena of the public sphere, people freely come together and discuss political issues and influence political action. The public sphere is important for the exercise of deliberative democracy, and is characterized by two distinctive features. The first is the citizens? general access to information, opinion and institutions, and the second is the enhanced political participation through discussion and debate on certain issues that would influence the political action. Thus, the Internet is credited with the potential to contribute to the public sphere and, therefore, to deliberative democracy.